The British & Irish Cup final on Sunday, May 16 will be an Ireland v England affair after Munster and the Cornish Pirates progressed from the weekend’s semi-finals.
The Cornish Pirates scored a convincing six-try 43-5 win over Doncaster to secure their place in the final, which will take place at their home stadium, the Camborne Recreation Ground.
Tickets for the final, which will be broadcast live on Sky Sports, are available to purchase here.
A super-charged Munster side grabbed four tries to comfortably see off the challenge in Saturday’s interprovincial derby at Thomond Park.
The Anthony Foley and Ian Costello-coached team, successful in all five of their pool matches, lived up to their reputation. Foley could not have been more happy.
He said afterwards: “I think our first half performance when we were playing against the wind won us the game. It was very physical and our set piece was first class.”
Unsurprisingly, the former Munster and Ireland number 8 was full of praise for Jeremy Manning, who scored two tries.
“Jeremy looked very comfortable in the centre. He was very exciting on the ball and controlled the defensive line,” he added.
As Foley pointed out, Munster effectively had the game won after playing into the wind in the first half. By that stage, they had scored two tries through Manning and scrum half Duncan Williams.
Ulster Ravens rarely managed to put them under pressure, despite having the advantage of the wind. Nor did they help their cause by gifting Munster their opening try after just 11 minutes.
Centre Michael Allen failed to find touch after gathering a kick ahead by Manning under his own posts. To his dismay, his clearance went straight back into the hands of Manning and the Munster centre went over for an unconverted try in the left corner.
Although out-half James McKinney gave the Ravens some hope with a penalty to reduce the deficit to 5-3, there were no real signs that Munster were going to lose their grip. Even less so when the home side secured their second try, 11 minutes before half time.
This was a superbly worked effort with Munster setting up several phases before Williams jinked through to go over to the right of the posts.
Once again, out-half Declan Cusack was narrowly off target with the conversion but he soon compensated in spectacular fashion with a 40-metre penalty into the wind to give Munster a 13-3 interval advantage.
Worse was to follow for Ulster Ravens early in the second half. Munster scored a third try, Manning running in from 45 metres after a perfectly-timed pass from Williams. When Cusack added the conversion, Munster were 20-3 clear.
That lead was extended to 27-3, the impressive hooker Mike Sherry crashing over for another try which Cusack again converted.
Such was Munster’s control, that they could afford to substitute quite a few of their most effective performers, notably prop Dave Ryan and Williams.
Quite rightly, Foley mentioned the contributions of both after the game, saying: “Lots of guys performed out there. Obviously, Manning was very good but so were Mike Sherry, Peter O’Mahony, the two second rows and Duncan Williams.
“They were immense. The physicality we brought to our performance was great. Hopefully, we can keep in going now for the final.”
It was a very disappointing end to the inaugural competition for an Ulster Ravens side that came through the pool stages unbeaten.
The Ravens scrum was the highlight of their performance in Limerick with front rowers Paddy McAllister, Nigel Brady and Declan Fitzpatrick causing the home side considerable problems.
But, despite their advantage in the tight, the Ulstermen played second fiddle to Munster in broken play and they took their scoring chances in clinical fashion.
Speaking afterwards, Ulster Ravens manager Gary Longwell said: “Full credit to Munster they deserved their win and took their chances very well.
“They were a little bit too powerful for us, but our boys did well to get to the semi-final by winning their group.
“We scrummed very well, the back row did well and there were some outstanding performances.
“Thomond Park is a difficult place to get a result, but I think a few people put their hands up for selection for the senior panel.
“The pitch had been watered down before we played and I don’t think that really helped us.
“The ball wasn’t easy to move along the back-line because it was greasy which played to their strengths because they wanted to keep it tight whereas we wanted to move it and the pitch didn’t suit us.”
Already looking forward to next season, the former Ulster and Ireland lock is confident that the Ravens will be back challenging for honours in next season’s British & Irish Cup.
“We have used 16 Academy players for the Ravens this season, that is a feat and it has been a very useful competition. Now we have to think about next year,” he added.
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